A polytheistic Neo-Pagan nature religion inspired by various pre-Christian western European beliefs, whose central deity is a mother goddess and includes the use of herbal magic and benign witchcraft. Wicca is a very peaceful, harmonious and balanced way of life which promotes oneness with the divine and all which exists. Wiccans have great reverence for the Earth and for their Goddess and her consort, the horned God. Their main rule of behavior is the Wiccan Rede which forbids them from harming people, including themselves, except in some cases of self-defense. Many, perhaps most, are solitary practitioners. Others form small groups of believers, called covens, groves, etc. Because of centuries of religious propaganda and misinformation, many conservative Christians, and others, associate Wiccans with Satanists even though the two belief systems are as different as Christianity and Atheism. Much of modern-day Wicca can be directly traced back to the writings of Charles Leland, Margaret Murray, and Gerald Gardner. There are many beliefs concerning the origins of Wicca.
According to Gardner, Wicca: 1) began in prehistory, as ritual associated with fire, the hunt, animal fertility, plant propagation, tribal fertility, and the curing of disease; 2) developed into a religion which recognized a Supreme Deity, but realized that at their state of evolution, they "were incapable of understanding It" . Instead, they worshipped what might be termed "under-Gods": the Goddess of fertility and her horned consort, the God of the hunt; 3) continued their predominately Moon based worship, even as a mainly Sun-based faith of priests, the Druids, developed and evolved into the dominant religion of the Celts. They never formed a single political entity, but remained as many tribes who shared a common culture and religions; 4) survived the Roman, Saxon, and Norman invasions by going underground; 5) suffered major loss in numbers during the active Christian genocides, which continued into the 18th Century; 6) reached a low ebb by the middle of the 20th century. Much of the theology and ritual had been lost. Wiccan covens had become so isolated that they had lost contact with each other; and 7) was revived in the UK by himself, his High Priestess Doreen Valiente, (1922-1999) and others, who took the surviving beliefs and practices, and fleshed them out with material from other religious, spiritual and ceremonial magick sources.
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